Jeri Palumbo is a Broadcast Sports and Entertainment Mixer based in Los Angeles. Jeri has been working in audio for over 30 years, first as a trained musician and arranger before going into post-production and then moving into live broadcast. Working mainly within sports broadcasting, her clients include the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, The Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, and The Oscars. Jeri is also part of the RF Coordination team each year for the Rose Bowl. She has worked with entertainment shows including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, and American Idol. She has won a Telly Award for her mixing work on “Songs of the Mountains”, a live bluegrass show.
Jeri’s family background is made up of four generations of musicians and her grandmother and mother were both professional jazz musicians. Her great-grandfather was a musician and violin maker, and Jeri’s father was a folk guitar player. Jeri started piano at age three and by the time Jeri was in high school she was arranging and writing scores. Jeri attended The Juilliard School of Music majoring in composition and orchestration, landing her a contract as a musical director which led to her interest in sound engineering. She worked side by side with the sound engineer and was introduced to the Fairlight CMI, the first digital synthesizer and wave manipulator, she was fascinated by how the engineer was able to change pitch and EQ. This was a game-changer and inspired Jeri to learn more about engineering and the potential possibilities of sound manipulation with digital audio tools.
Jeri’s parents would warn her that a career in music was unpredictable and urged her to obtain skills needed for steady employment and the possibility of retirement. Jeri studied computer science and IT (for two semesters) and then landed a job working in IT/LAN platform trouble-shooting at First Union Bank. While Jeri loved working and learning the technical aspects of the job, she still craved the creativity music provided. She wanted to blend her technical skills with her creative skills and looked toward Post-Production.
Jeri enrolled at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC, and hit the streets knocking on doors of all the post-production houses in nearby Charlotte, NC. She offered to intern for free and most did not return her calls. One that did was Media-Comm where she interned for a semester and learned to use the video editor from AVID and AVID’S AUDIO VISION, their pre-curser to ProTools. Eventually, Media-Comm hired Jeri where she focused on enhancing audio for TV shows. One show that broadcast out of Media-Comm was RaceDay, a live show that preceded NASCAR on Sundays. Eventually, RaceDay came knocking and asked Jeri to mix the show. While Jeri had never mixed a live show and she had her doubts, the director of the show said “Audio is Audio and you will be fine”. Jeri did her homework and was told by a former mixer that he would not touch it as it was live and found that several people had turned it down because of the live elements and fast pace. Jeri took the gig and pulled it off.
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RaceDay was a big, complicated national show, and Jeri ended up on the list of live sports mixers because of it. Within a week CBS Sports called and asked Jeri to work on the NCAA Final Four. Jeri caught the attention of CBS Sports, Fox Sports, and ESPN. All of this led to a career working across the country on high-profile sports events, primarily serving as an A1 working in the broadcast truck. She was also asked to A2 for a friend in need one day and eventually wore all the hats in broadcast audio; A1 mixer, A2, RF Tech and Comms. As an A1 mixer, Jeri is in charge of everything you hear in the final broadcast. Jeri has been particularly embedded in RF technology and coordination, which has numerous technical challenges, particularly with the shrinking RF UHF spectrum. She worked alongside major RF manufacturers and colleagues of RF gear and technology in the recent RF Spectrum auction and lobbying to save a portion of the RF Spectrum for production. One of Jeri’s close partnerships with regard to saving these RF changes was with the late, great Mark Brunner of Shure. Jeri’s in-depth tech articles on the RF spectrum and the impact of the changes have appeared in several trade magazines.
Her most recent stint in sports was as A1 mixer for eSports and Gaming. In an unusual and unprecedented move, (and to much debate from many of her colleagues), Jeri mixed a live broadcast in stereo while simultaneously mixing an embedded object-oriented surround to the HOUSE – with no FOH – from the same console (Calrec Artimis see article https://calrec.com/blog/craft-profile-jeri-palumbo/). What Jeri tried to convey, and what those on the outside didn’t know, was that the network launch for this major event was three weeks short of having their studio finished for audio. So she did what any professional would do, tried to make it work with what she had, from the broadcast truck.
It’s Not All Sports
Jeri has also been involved in other fields of audio and has worked as an A1 on a bluegrass show called Songs of the Mountains. Songs of the Mountains was a live-to-tape bluegrass show broadcast on PBS. There were tough parameters on this show as the producers did not want to mic the traditional instruments. Instead, they wanted it to be organic and traditional, where the musicians would play around a central microphone and step forward for solos. The show was challenging with the various acoustical instruments and Jeri found herself riding EQ more than faders as the frequencies would often play against each other. They used an AKG C414 because of it’s adaptability in the ever changing scenario of the different instruments used. Jeri is proud of the work she did using simple techniques and she was awarded a Telly Award for her work.
Recently Jeri has been instrumental in launching Arena Waves, a library of the highest quality music audio for Sports and Television content. Arena Waves kept Jeri extremely busy in 2020, while most live events were canceled due to COVID19, and was launched at the beginning of 2021.
Like so many in our industry, Jeri’s career path has been diverse. Her solid educational background in music and IT allowed Jeri to move into post-production and then into live broadcasts and engineering and again, back to music. In her own words with Arena Waves, “It’s a perfect meld of everything I know”.
Arena Waves is high-caliber music licensing library for sports, gaming, television and film. With seasoned composers and session musicians on board, (most have played on your favorites records), Arena Waves debuted at launch in the mid-three-quarters to high range when it comes to catalog volume (over 70k+ and adding 50-100 new cuts per week). Several things make this catalog unique, one being its ease of use while also having mobile platform flexibility. But more importantly, it’s worth noting the efficiency of the ready-made cut-downs for bumpers and highlights in the Producer’s Edge section. Cues are drop-in ready. Arena Waves also writes on-demand theme and cue requests and can provide quick turn arounds. With remarkably catchy themes from hard-driven rock, to dark and broody or moody, there is literally every style for every listener and media requirements and tastes. In fact, the catalog is so eclectic that, even though its intended purpose is sports, television and film, one can create personal playlists (register, it’s free) for their own listening pleasure. The music is that good and that diverse.
For more information, check out www.arenawaves.com and be sure to follow all their socials.
What is a typical day like?
Arrive early, unload the truck, run cables, interconnect with the facility, set up audio, fax if working in the field. In the truck, patch my patch bays, SAPS, routers and fader layouts. Load and set up music cues.
How do you stay organized and focused?
The pressure of live keeps me focused. Also having a Plan A, Plan B, etc as backup options for live. For complex mixing (i.e. eSports or multiple routers of audio), I’m a big fan of populating my bottom layers to remain static while cloning to upper layers per need of each show.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
It’s live, it’s exciting and when it goes well, it’s instant gratification.
What do you like least?
It’s live, it’s exciting and when it goes badly, you SWEAR there’s not enough money in it EVER!
The best part of being on the road?
I’m on the road although I’m not on a bus, I am on planes a lot. The best part is the road family, exploring new areas of the world and for certain eating local cuisine.
What do you like least?
The hours, the wear and tear on your body, lack of sleep.
What is your favorite day off activity?
Exploring local cultures
What are your long-term goals?
To try new things, push my personal limits and continue to follow current and new passions.
What if any obstacles or barriers have you faced?
For CERTAIN misogyny and sadly, only from certain productions and a small posse of peers. Also sadly, everyone else – not just me – has experienced the exact same treatment from the exact same people from the exact same productions. When a recent interviewer offline told me she encountered these issues WITH THE EXACT SAME PEOPLE 20 YEARS AGO on a sports event (this production travels), I challenge all the networks to wake up and investigate these “hand fuls” that are predictable, unprofessional and putting a black eye unfairly on the entire broadcast community (and is now into its second generation of newcomers being mistreated yet again, by the EXACT same people). I assure that the broadcast community is not what these few bad apples represent, but the network productions ignoring it won’t fix it.
How have you dealt with them?
I ask questions not only of them but of those around them. If they all “posse together”, then I move on to a team that is worthy…and good…and healthy. I don’t stay in places where I know it will be IMPOSSIBLE to change.
The advice you have for other women and young women who wish to enter the field?
1) you have to have thick skin. Sports and Rock n Roll comes with a lot of testosterone that often “react” in their environments of comfort (ie a football field before a game). These people are in “game mode” and are not there to think of anything else.
2) production mal-treatment vs real emotions. Please know the difference. It’s intense and gets crazy and not every minor thing said is a reason for “HR”. HOWEVER, abuse should never be tolerated. Just know the difference and if you don’t know, get educated before entering this environment, hence “thick skin”.
3) know when you are in a toxic team – those that withhold information, constantly throwing their fellow members under the bus, not owning up to errors, etc. Be aware that even though this exists to some extent everywhere, not EVERY production conducts itself this way and the good ones, with good leaders, will NOT tolerate this from their team.
4) move on when you know it’s not going to work out for you. Get out earlier and find your tribe sooner
5) hone your skills
6) when you’re wrong, admit it. If you don’t know something, admit it. When you DO know, help your teammates learn
Must have skills?
1) know your audio or tell those around you you are willing to learn what you don’t know
2) people skills
3) be kind and understanding to those around you
4) everybody has a bad day and everybody has a bad GIG…shake it off, learn from it, get up and do it again
OOOOOOoooooh….well, in-studio mixing, I’m a big fan of Eventide gear. I’m also a big fan of the AKG414 due to its wide range of patterns,m. I love Sennheiser wireless mics for field and lav needs. I love all Lectrosonics RF wireless IFB/In-ear products. Both Sennheiser and Lectrosonics wireless mics and IFB/IEMs are interchangeable to me in quality and robustness. Radioactive Audio Designs uses a nice VHF and lower bands for communications that steer clear of broadcast bands….and Clear Comm and Telex have some nice workarounds with their comms systems as well. Shure’s Wireless Workbench is great for some concert venues (although I haven’t really used this on large scale events). I like seeing Studers in the studio broadcast environment while I like seeing a Calrec on broadcast trucks or remotes.
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